Bitcoin: It’s Not Too Late To Send Me Money

When I was a boy, I recall my dad telling me of seeing an ad in the local newspaper classifieds section that simply said, “IT’S NOT TOO LATE! SEND $1 TO…” followed by a P.O. Box. There was no further identifying information, and no promise was made for any goods or services in return. The story goes that whoever placed the ad made a tidy sum. If this story is true, perhaps people who sent in their dollar were just idiots who expected to receive something exciting. But I’d actually prefer to think that most of them were people who decided to send some money out of amused gratitude for the entertainment they’d just enjoyed.

Money is a slippery thing. We take it for granted, like the air we breathe. Also, like air, we’d be pretty helpless without it. But what is money? Briefly, money is:

  • A medium of exchange: You can buy things with it and sell things for it.
  • A unit of account: You can divide it into smaller pieces (divisibility) and any unit of a currency is just the same as any other (fungibility).
  • A store of value: It can be saved, stored, and retrieved, and still be usable with it’s value pretty much intact.

One of my favorite books, Your Money or Your Life, defines money very simply:

  • Money is what you will trade your life energy for.

We get so much for free from the Internet these days that it’s almost as if we live two lives: the mundane life of working to earn a living and paying for the things we need, and a separate, magical life we lead in a land where everything is free. We almost take offense when someone suggests that stuff we get for free now is actually worth, you know… money.

And yet we all know in the back of our minds that the people who create music, movies, books, comics, software, newspaper articles, podcasts, or blog posts are spending their life energy to do it. And even if they consider doing it a labor of love, we all know they could do what they love that much better if they didn’t also have to worry so much about paying the bills.

But let’s get something straight: the only reason that the things we get off the Internet can even project an illusion of being “free” is that once they are created, the cost of distributing them is essentially zero— lost in the noise of the fees we pay just to be online.

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The reality is that nothing is free— at a minimum the people who create these things are spending their precious life energy.

Most of us are raised with a strong ethic that we should get what we pay for, and conversely that we should pay for what we get. And we are getting so much— our lives have been immeasurably enriched by the communication, collaboration, and culture that the Internet makes possible— I don’t know anyone who denies this. At the same time, we are daunted by the logistics of directly and materially expressing our gratitude to the people who, every day in little ways, make our lives better with their creativity. On the other side of the equation, thousands of creative people turn away from their potential because they know there’s no good way to be noticed sufficiently to break through to earning a decent living doing what they do.

The need for a way to bring these creative producers and consumers together directly has, over the past 15 years, been slowly pressurizing our culture with a sense of cognitive dissonance. As I browse the Internet, I often find myself thinking things like “That was a good video! I hope she does more.” I take the time to leave an encouraging comment, but also in that moment, I know that if I had the ability to drop a nickel (or a penny, or a dollar) directly into that person’s pocket, I would. Like Johnny Appleseed I would happily repeat this sowing of tiny amounts of money everywhere I went. I would sleep more peacefully knowing that thousands of other people like me were doing the same— encouraging the creators to wake up the next day, find their hats full of nickels, and keep creating.

But I can’t. At least, not so far. The introduction of true, sub-dollar micropayments has failed repeatedly. So far the closest successful examples are eBay’s PayPal and Apple’s App Store. But in these cases, there is a middle man with a monopoly taking a large chunk of the transaction, and with a corporate mandate to veto any transactions that seem the least bit risky. These factors make tiny, anonymous transactions infeasible with either, and they have been the major reason why no micropayment system has succeeded… yet.

The situation I have just described is but one of a number of compelling reasons that a new form of electronic currency is required. And finally, a brilliant new invention now exists that fulfills all the requirements I listed above: Bitcoin.

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I’m not exaggerating when I call this a brilliant invention. I’ve spent the past several days in complete and utter geek awe over its beauty and simplicity. Bitcoin is real money. It can easily play the role of the nickel I anonymously toss into the pocket of a deserving musician, writer, or artist, as it can play the role of the fees I earn for writing software, or for the revenue I earn for selling my software directly to users. It can also be used to buy real-world hard goods. Like gold, silver, or other commodities, the price of Bitcoin fluctuates against the dollar and all other currencies. Like fiat currencies such as the dollar, it is not “backed” by anything except peoples’ desire to use it for the things that every other currency is used for. But unlike other currencies, Bitcoin has no central banking or fractional reserve system that controls the money supply. Like gold and silver, the amount of Bitcoin in the world is governed by the laws of physics and mathematics, not the whims of governments.

And Bitcoin is available now. You can download the software and be up and running in minutes. You can get a few Bitcoin cents to play with for free from the Bitcoin Faucet or buy a few dollars worth of Bitcoin from Mt. Gox. If you have goods or services to sell then you can learn how to start accepting Bitcoin for them. With some Bitcoin in your wallet, you can shop for goods and services from merchants who accept Bitcoin, or simply start dropping nickels into the pockets of deserving charities around the net like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and deserving creative types… like me.

It’s not too late! Send whatever you like to my Bitcoin address:
1EBbuVTcLNfn9d3T6vXU3SfAb7HQw4gr1E

Comments? Send a tweet to @ironwolf or use the response form.
I can’t respond to everything, but I do read everything!

Comments on Tumblr Articles Now Supported!

I’ve been extremely busy lately, but I still keep finding interesting/worthwhile/amusing things on the Internet. So rather than clutter up my personal blog with such stuff, which I’d like to keep for when I have something more original to say, I’ve been posting such little gems to my “tumblelog” found at ironwolf.tumblr.com.

My tumblelog has seen steady action lately, and I post to it almost every day. So if you enjoy the things I’ve talked about here, you should definitely check out the other.

Anyway, I’ve discussed the details here in the past. The news today is that I’ve just added the ability to comment on posts there, so now you can express your own thoughts/amusement/disgust at what you find. Just click the “comments” link at the bottom of each post to read others’ comments or post your own.

Comments? Send a tweet to @ironwolf or use the response form.
I can’t respond to everything, but I do read everything!

New Tumblelog

You’ve subscribed to the Ironwolf Blog RSS Feed

…you follow Ironwolf on Twitter

…you religiously debate in the Ironwolf Forum

…you own every shirt available in the Ironwolf Cafe Press shop

…you hang out 24×7 in the Ironwolf Chat Room

…and now, in our never-ending quest to satisfy your craving for all things Ironwolf, we present…

The Ironwolf Tumblelog!

A tumblelog is a place for short, stream-of-consciousness links to various web pages, images, videos, or text snippets I’ve found interesting or amusing, but which don’t merit much further commentary. It also exists because after researching a particular topic of interest, I’ve often found myself with dozens of open tabs that I don’t really want to bookmark in my browser, but do want to have some record of— in case I ever want to remember what I was doing instead of the more important things I should have been doing.

Oh, and the tumblelog also incorporates the RSS feeds from my Twitter account, which in turn includes links to my blog posts. So if you want a single RSS feed that covers all three, go for this one.

Comments? Send a tweet to @ironwolf or use the response form.
I can’t respond to everything, but I do read everything!

Better Than Free?

In an age where a major portion of the economy is based in “digital goods,” that are transmitted through a system— the Internet— where they are of both necessity and choice endlessly and perfectly copied, and from which they can never be fully erased, why would anyone pay for these goods? After all, they’re basically free, right?

As a kid I did on occasion copy game software I wasn’t supposed to. As an adult I still have a few tracks in my music library that I’m really not sure where or from whom I got them. And as a software author, my livelihood depends on people actually ponying up for my digital goods. So I’ve been acutely aware of issues of copyright, and the ancient and seemingly endless technical and legal cat-and-mouse games played by producers and consumers of digital goods.

Take Linux for example: it’s a great operating system. It is widely used in both business and academia. It is more stable than Windows. It runs on almost any hardware. And unlike my favorite operating system, Mac OS X, it is free. So why hasn’t Linux taken over the world? The short answer is that although Linux is “free,” commercial OSes like Mac OS X are often “better than free.”

Kevin Kelly, in his article Better Than Free in the latest Edge, points out that not only is the number of digital goods available “for free” rapidly increasing, but so are the number of types of goods becoming digital, and hence free to store and copy. These products include the formulas for drugs and our own genetic codes.

So what will people pay for? Kelly’s article describes eight so-called “generative” qualities that keep people ponying up even when the goods themselves can be had for free. These qualities point to new business models that anyone who makes their livelihood from goods that are digital (or that will become so) should keep in mind. Here are my distilled summaries of these qualities— read his article for more detail and examples.

Immediacy “I’ll pay to have it now.
Personalization “I’ll pay to have it my way.
Interpretation “I’ll pay to get the most out of it.
Authenticity “I’ll pay to get the creator’s mark and warranty on it.
Accessibility “I’ll pay to have someone keep it safe and bring it out when, where, and how I want it.
Embodiment “I’ll pay to experience expressions of it that are highest-quality, or most unique and rare.
Patronage “I’ll pay to reward the creator for it, and encourage them to continue creating.
Findability “I’ll pay to easily find what I want, even when I don’t know what I want.

Comments? Send a tweet to @ironwolf or use the response form.
I can’t respond to everything, but I do read everything!

A Little Bird Told You

twitter.pngI now have a Twitter account, so if you want to tune into my ongoing answer to the question “What are you doing now?” then feel free to follow my tweets. The sidebar of my blog now also includes my latest tweets. I plan to keep them to two to three per day, and I’ll see whether I can make them interesting. But no promises.

Comments? Send a tweet to @ironwolf or use the response form.
I can’t respond to everything, but I do read everything!

Anonymous Never Forgets

A few days ago the Los Angeles Fox News affiliate ran this Fair and Balanced piece of scare fluff:

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Personally, I found it to be full of epic lulz— especially the gratuitously exploding truck. Twice.

Truly, the acidically-removed fingerprints of Anonymous are everywhere!

So to celebrate the rising Internet Hate Machine that is Anonymous… a money-grubbing t-shirt! Available now in my CafePress store in a selection of nihilistically dark colors.

Anonymous: United as One, Divided by Zero

5% of all proceeds go directly to benefit someone who shall remain nameless.

Anonymous: United as One, Divided by Zero

Comments? Send a tweet to @ironwolf or use the response form.
I can’t respond to everything, but I do read everything!

Wikipedia Links Now Highlighted

I admit it: I’m addicted to Google and Wikipedia. In fact, my writing is pretty much littered with references to Wikipedia articles. So I’ve added a special highlighting to links to Wikipedia articles:

So whether you want to read them or avoid them— now it’s easy to spot them coming!

Note: You will only be able to see the highlighting if your browser or RSS reader supports CSS.

Comments? Send a tweet to @ironwolf or use the response form.
I can’t respond to everything, but I do read everything!